Defensive heroics lead to big win for Commanders over Stallions
SAN ANTONIO — Some nights just end sour and on a heartbreak. In the case of the Salt Lake Stallions, they’ve felt this pain before. While quarterback Josh Woodrum performed admirably under center, a simple mistake cost the team a chance at victory.
After scoring on a 21-yard pass to Terrell Newby, the Stallions needed a two-point conversion to tie the San Antonio Commanders and send the game into overtime. Hoping to connect on the slats, Woodrum fired a bullet to DeMornay Pierson-El. Instead, Commanders cornerback De’Vante Bausby jumped the route and returned it 99 yards to seal victory of the Commanders, 19-15.
“This was a hard fought defensive game,” Commanders head coach Mike Riley said. “Both defenses were outstanding.”
The Commanders defense might have struggled at times allowing big plays but can in clutch when called upon. During the second quarter, the Stallions were driving and picking up steam towards the Commanders red zone.
As Woodrum looked to the air for his go-to tight end Nick Trusedell, Duke Thomas collected his first interception on the season and return it 24 yards, swinging the momentum back in favor of San Antonio.
“Our corners are good players,” Riley said. “Very instinctive, very aggressive and they play intelligently. They do a nice job of kind of hanging in there and playing until the end of the play.”
On offense, the Commanders started hot in front of a crowd of over 30,000. Logan Woodside came out strong looking to make a statement early. On the team’s opening drive, Woodside would find Mekale McKay in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown, giving the Commanders a 6-3 lead.
Then the offense stalled. Unable to establish the run, struggling through the air, the Commanders would struggle in the red zone once more, settling for a 23-yard field goal from Trey Williams. Woodside would finish 13 of 19 for 164 yards along with an interception.
“We knew this defense was going to be really good,” Riley said. “We thought that they were probably the best defense we had seen so far. We were probably right.”
Along with struggling to find rhythm through the air, the Commanders would sack Woodside four times. After the fourth hit, it was just too much on the gunslinger’s shoulder. With Woodside hurt, Riley would turn to Marquise Williams to help the team pick up the victory.
“I need I had to lead this team to a victory,” Williams said. “I didn’t try to put too much pressure on myself. The stage was already set.”
And Williams did just that. Going 2 of 3 for 49 yards and using his legs 19, Williams was able to set the Commanders up just outside the red zone. Keeping the drive alive, momentum began heading back to the Commanders
On a crucial third down, Williams found running back Trey Williams on a swing route in the flats. The speedy runner would break free down the sideline 36 yards for the touchdown, giving San Antonio the lead.
“It was like a play we ran back in North Carolina ‘40 bling’ and bling means touchdown,” Williams said. “That’s what I felt like doing today, ‘40 bling’.”
With the Commanders remaining on top of the Western Conference standings, every win leads to a closer chance at the postseason. With two options at quarterback and a talented defense, Riley and the Commanders are trending in the right direction.
But the Commanders had a secret weapon; the fans. With over 30,000 voices chanting, the Commanders nation was able to cause miscommunication for the Stallions offense all night, setting the tone for The Alliance fan base.
“If everybody else in the league had fans like this, this could go forever,” Stallions head coach Dennis Erickson said. “It’s San Antonio, it’s the state of Texas, it’s football country.”
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Cole Thompson covers the San Antonio Commanders for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter @MrColeThompson